Alison Cochrun is a high school English teacher living outside of Portland, Oregon.

When she's not reading and writing queer love stories, you can find her torturing teenagers with Shakespeare, crafting perfect travel itineraries, hate-watching reality dating shows, and searching for the best happy hour nachos. “The Charm Offensive” is her first novel.

What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

I’ve been in a love-hate relationship with reality dating shows for a long time, but those shows never focus on any people who look like me, think like me, or love like me. Both queerness and mental health are virtually non-existence in these heteronormative (and often exploitive) shows. “The Charm Offensive” came out of the question: what would happen if someone like me did go on a reality dating show like “The Bachelor”? From there, the main character Charlie Winshaw was born, and his story is about him finding himself in the unusual situation of being the star of a reality dating show.

What does "Reading with Pride" mean to you?

As someone who came out as a lesbian at 33 after a long struggle to understand my sexual identity, Reading with Pride is about the sense of pride I feel in getting to see my story and stories like mine reflected in genres I love, such as romance. Reading with Pride is about the validation, empathy, and empowerment I experience in reading queer stories, and the pride I derive from getting to share my specific story with readers through fiction.

Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books and characters?

As much as possible, I wanted to write a book that accurately reflects the world we live in, especially because reality television in particular has glaring issues with inclusivity and positive, diverse representation. As a lesbian who is on the asexual spectrum, it was also important to me to try to represent the vast diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community. I wanted to see the intersections of my complex sexual identity reflected alongside my experiences with mental health and mental illness, and I wanted to write a story where readers could potentially see themselves reflected, too.

Which character did you relate to the most and why?

I think every character has little nuggets of me infused into them, but the main character, Charlie, is the one I most based on myself and my own experiences, so he’s definitely the character I relate to most. Writing his character was both extremely cathartic and terrifyingly vulnerable. 

What can fans expect from your book?

Fans of romcoms can expect a lot of rom and a lot of com. Hopefully, you’ll laugh a little, swoon a little, maybe cry a little... “The Charm Offensive” has behind-the-scene reality television antics, mutual pining, a forbidden relationship, forced proximity, funny side characters, and lots of angst. But it’s also a book about queer identity, self-love, and living with anxiety and depression. While it has the guaranteed happily-ever-after, it also has some heavier moments.

What's up next for you in the bookish world?

My second novel, “Kiss Her Once for Me,” is a sapphic holiday romantic comedy set in Portland, Oregon, and it comes out fall of 2022! It’s about a chaotic, bisexual artist in the midst of a quarter-life crisis who agrees to a fake relationship with her boss over Christmas, only to end up falling in love with his sister. Think: Hallmark Christmas movie, but make it super queer.


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